James Haskell is currently man of the moment at Premiership rugby club, Wasps. After a flying start to the season he was set to wear the red rose over the Autumn International period until flu like symptoms kept him off the pitch. But back with a vengeance this week, Haskell is set to make his mark on Saturday when England play Samoa.
England’s lack of experience has really shone through during this years Autumn Internationals. While it is good to have fresh blood on the pitch, it is also important to have some old guns in place to ensure the squad isn’t left to expose. This is where Haskell comes in.
He has got 51 caps for the senior team and 4 for the Saxons team. When it comes to experience he is one of the most capped players currently in the EPS set up. The only player to beat him is, Saints Hooker Dylan Hartley, who is slightly ahead of him with 59 caps.
England is in need of a fresh new influence, to add another dynamic to their performance on the pitch. With his experience and decision making skills I believe Haskell is that man.
The other quality I found to be influential to his part in the England progression is passion. Now I know what you’re all thinking, they all have passion, otherwise why would they be there? But no no. I mean that gut wrenching; tear provoking, heart throbbing kind of passion.
I remember when he earned his 51st cap in New Zealand during the summer; the pride in wearing the shirt was clear and displayed how much he wanted this opportunity. This is what he had to say:
“What Stuart does is: when someone is picked for the first time, they are given a shirt and they have to write on it what it means to them to play for England. I had never done that under him, so he told me to do that in New Zealand. I got the chance to tell the whole squad on the team-run day what it meant to me to play for England. I cried like a baby when I was telling the guys what it meant to me.”
As a clear leader in the England camp Haskell will be there to ensure tensions don’t rise too much and stop the crisis bell ringing when the pressure is on.
Whilst England are currently on a losing streak of five games, it’s important to remember that they have been playing against the top two countries in the world and have only lost by a few points. There doesn’t appear to be any permanent decisions in camp, however this shake up of the squad will help to add another dynamic on the pitch and hopefully see the bar raised. The mistakes over the last couple of weeks can be fixed, however, I fear a loss against Samoa could see the mentality and confidence of the squad plummet.
As important as a win is, Haskell must make sure he puts his marker down this weekend to ensure he gets picked to start in the prestigious Australia game next week. As that starting line up will be more indicative as to how the World Cup squad could look.
What I want to know this week is: is Haskell the missing jigsaw piece? And will this squad shake up help England to break their losing streak? Let me know what you think by tweeting @InTheLoose to continue the debate.